I am convinced that a clear understanding of the below two passages is a primary key to joy in this life, even joy in testing and suffering; and, that a clear understanding and application of it now is a primary key to eternal life and Heavenly treasures in the future. Understanding these verses unlocks our very existence (our body, soul and spirit) to the Heavenlies, and affords us an amazing look into the very heart of God and His plan for our lives!
“As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. “You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother. And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up. Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. They were even more astonished and said to Him, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Looking at them, Jesus said, ‘With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.’ Peter began to say to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.'”
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
While I was driving home from church three weeks ago, after preaching on these verses, I had this thought: I know that I have eternal life. I have given my life over to God and believe that Jesus died for my sins and rose again to give me a whole new life. I have been born again into the family of God. But, I could not help but ask myself a question that had been gnawing at me the entire time I was preparing this series of sermons, “Does God want me to sell everything I have and give it to the poor?” My answer to myself had been that this is not what Jesus meant for me right now. I mean, these instructions were for a very devout Jewish young man who had followed the traditional ways of Judaism without wavering from the time he was a little boy; and he had also learned and followed the ways of finance and business acumen, undoubtedly taught to him by his father and grandfather; and, he was very devout and successful at both. And, Jesus appreciated that! And, He had a love for this young man and for his devotion to Him and to his craft.
So then, what’s wrong here? It seems that he was better at all this than I am! That he was more devout than many religious people. That’s just what Peter wondered! Well, apparently Jesus also knew that this young man had missed the real reason for devotion to the Law of Moses, especially the Ten Commandments. His devotion was apparently a love of the Judeo system and to the Torah; but, it had never sunk down into his heart. He had a commitment to be sure, a strong religious commitment, but apparently it had never caused him to really fall in love with God. It had never become personal or deeply relational with the living God!
So, in his next lesson about faith Jesus said, “Show God that you really love Him more than anything in this world. Sell everything you have, be charitable like God is, and give it all to the poor. Then, come and follow Me!” He couldn’t do it. He went away empty. Religiously committed, but empty.
So then, on my way home, it was like Jesus was asking me again, “Do you love Me?” And I said, “Yes I do.” And, He said, are you willing to sell everything you have and give it to the poor?” And, I said, “Yes!” And then I asked myself again, “Are you willing to do that?” And, I paused and thought about it further. And finally, my answer was, “Yes, I think so.” And, finally, after some real introspection, I said, “Yes, I am willing. If He wants me to I will.”
But, the primary thought that came into my mind was this; as a believer (a disciple of Jesus Christ), He may not be asking me to sell all I have and to give it to the poor, at least not right now, but figuratively it’s pretty clear that Jesus wants me to make it all available to Him to use as He sees fit! Given that reality, then I said to myself that a key understanding of this story has to do with availability to everything: to me, to my wife (since we are one), to our assets, to our time, to our bodies, and to our minds. In short, my very existence is His! And, with that, I surrendered it all again. And, I will do it again and again if that what it takes to gain Heavenly treasure and bring glory to my most wonderful God!
If this is what Jesus had in mind when talking to the rich young ruler, and when He was preaching what we now call the Sermon on the Mount, then my question for all of us is this: “Are we willing to make it all available to God?”
“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:19).
That’s what Jesus was reaffirming in my own life. You see, Jesus wasn’t just talking about money, was He? No! He was talking about love and attitude and access and generosity and liberality of money and time and talents and good works! That’s obvious, isn’t it? Let’s look at those verses again in Mark 10 and verses 28-31. I mean, these poor disciples of Jesus were distraught. They didn’t have any money! “What about us,” Peter asked!
“Peter began to say to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.'”
Wow! What’s He saying? Do you see it? Jesus is teaching us here that God awards wholehearted service. He awards it both now and in the hereafter. He said in Matthew 6:21 that a person’s heart is where his treasure is, which means that our interests are determined by what we value the most. You see, Jesus was trying to show the rich young ruler where his heart really was! And, it wasn’t with God, at least not yet!
Jesus wasn’t interested in the money. He just uses that as an illustration, because He knows how all-important it is to us. Jesus equates selling all we have and giving it to the poor, with self-sacrifice in ALL areas of life. He is saying that He expects us to be willing to pack it all up and give it ALL to God for His purposes, if He so desires!
He is really asking for us, for our availability, no matter the cost! Time, talents, money, material assets, jobs and family. Where are you? Are you willing to sell it all and give it to the poor? Are you really?
Scripture used here is from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation